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Five dead in violence after Morocco demos: minister

Five met their death in Morocco's call for change

AFP , Wednesday 23 Feb 2011
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Five burned bodies were found in a bank set ablaze in a north Moroccan town in unrest that erupted after weekend demonstrations for change, Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui said Monday.

The minister also announced that 128 people, including 115 members of the security forces, were wounded in violence in several towns following largely peaceful demonstrations Sunday to demand political reform.

"The burned bodies of five people were recovered inside one of the bank branches set alight by rioters in the city of Al Hoceima," he told reporters.

They had not yet been identified. Violence broke out in the northern town, and other areas, after thousands of people staged rallies demanding political reform and limits on the powers of King Mohammed VI.

Witnesses said police used tear gas against protesters in Al Hoceima Sunday after they set fire to five cars and threw stones at a police station following the demonstration.

The Morocco protests followed others across the region demanding change.

An investigation was under way into the deaths in Al Hoceima, Cherkaoui said.

He said 120 people were arrested after the unrest in several cities but minors among those rounded up had been returned to their families.

In the demonstration in the capital Rabat Sunday, between 3,000 and 4,000 people took to the streets shouting: "The people want change." They denounced corruption and called for a democratic constitution to be adopted.

In Casablanca, the North African nation's biggest city, more than 4,000 people came out demanding: "Freedom, dignity, justice."

The protests were largely peaceful though there were reports of unrest after they ended.

Groups of several dozen people looted some shops, set cars on fire and threw stones at public buildings in several cities including tourist-hub Marrakesh and the northern port of Larache, witnesses said.

In Marrakesh 150-200 people attacked and looted shops including a branch of restaurant chain McDonalds, one witness said.

Similar incidents took place in Larache, several people said, with young people attacking public buildings, including a police post and a customs office. In both cases security forces did not intervene, the sources said.

Thousands of young Moroccans have joined the "February 20" movement on the social networking site Facebook, calling for peaceful demonstrations demanding a new constitution limiting the king's powers and more social justice.

The call has similar origins to the so-called "Facebook revolutions" that toppled decades-old regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and sparked deadly protests in Bahrain, Yemen and Algeria.

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